Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall containing Ever, Morden and Heber towers, two turrets and two sections of town ditch
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Newcastle upon Tyne (Metropolitan Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- NZ 24387 64271
Reasons for Designation
Between the Roman and post-medieval periods a large number of English towns were provided with defences. These defences served to mark the limits of the town or its intended size and could be used to defend the town in time of trouble. Their symbolic role in marking out the settlement was also significant. Newcastle was first granted permission to build a town wall in 1265. It enclosed the Roman and medieval core of the town and served to form its protection throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods. Building of the wall began on the north side of the town and continued around the eastern and western sides simultaneously. During its construction, the planned line of the walls was changed: on the west side, where it had been heading east towards the castle, the walls turn abruptly south towards the river, and on the east side, they make an eastwards extension in order to enclose the suburb of Pandon, granted to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1298. The curtain wall is of squared and coursed sandstone blocks, although the ashlar varies considerably in character and quality. Where excavation has taken place the wall is seen to have been constructed in a narrow foundation slot, straight onto the ground surface or on a broad raft of sandstone blocks. Above the foundation base there is a double chamfered plinth which in some places is stepped down in order to accommodate a change in gradient. The wall also displays great variety in thickness and height; the height range of all of the upstanding sections of the curtain wall is 4.4m to 6.6m from the top of the footings to the wall walk. The thickness of the wall immediately above the double chamfered plinth ranges from 1.98m to 3.3m. The curtain wall was surmounted by a parapet walkway which also varies in height from 1.53m to 1.68m above the top of the wall walk. The wall contained 17 interval towers which projected forwards from the line of the wall and about 40 intermediate turrets, normally flush with the outer face of the curtain wall but overhanging the internal face on a series of corbels. Gateways were built at Newgate, Westgate, Closegate, Sandgate, Pandongate and Pilgrimgate, each defended by a pair of gatehouses. A lesser gateway at Sallyport and two posterns, Blackfriars and Whitefriars, were also built. The wall was strengthened by an external ditch up to 20m wide and 4.5m deep separated from the wall by a berm (a flat space of ground between a defensive wall and a ditch in order to defend it). The ditch, known as the King's Dykes was completed in 1316, some time before completion of the wall. The defences continued to function as the town's main form of defence through to the 19th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the towers and some of the gates became the meeting places of a variety of town companies who generally added an upper storey to form a meeting hall. The defences were reinforced during the English Civil War in 1638 when England was threatened by invasion from Scotland. The town was stormed in 1644 by the Scots acting in support of Parliament, and the defences were subsequently repaired. In 1745 at the time of the Jacobite uprising the defences were repaired against the rebels which included walling up of all gateways. The defences were last repaired at the time of the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century. Subsequently, when the threat had passed and with the continuing development of Newcastle upon Tyne, their function as a defensive town boundary ceased. The walls were allowed to fall into decay and several sections were levelled in the years following 1823. Newcastle upon Tyne's town defences survive in various states of preservation. Some parts of the curtain wall still stand to full height and the towers and turrets are also clearly visible. The ditch is also clearly visible for part of the western side as a pronounced earthwork. Other parts of the defences are no longer visible above the present surface of the ground, but in these areas, sections of the walls and the ditch survive below ground level as buried features, and sufficient evidence exists for their positions to be accurately identified. Given the role played by the town defences in one of England's major commercial towns and their contribution towards an understanding of medieval and later urban development all sections of Newcastle's town defences that exhibit significant archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important. The standing remains of the medieval town wall between St Andrew's Street and Bath Lane survive well. They represent the longest and most complete length of the medieval circuit, complete with three towers, the remains of two turrets and in one place standing to its full height including the parapet. The extant section of the berm and outer ditch survive well and represent the only earthwork section of the ditch surviving in the City. As a monument which is accessible to the public, this section of Newcastle town defences serves as an important educational and recreational resource which will increase our understanding of how Newcastle's defences developed.
The monument is situated between St Andrew's Street and Bath Lane and runs
parallel to Stowell Street. It includes the upstanding and buried remains
of part of the town defences of Newcastle upon Tyne. The section of town
defences between St Andrew's Street and Bath Lane represents part of the
western side of the circuit and includes a 214m upstanding section of the
curtain wall, three towers, the remains of two turrets and two posterns.
Outside the wall there is a berm and ditch; the latter is partially
visible as an earthwork since its limited excavation and subsequent
display in the late 1980s. The town wall, towers and turrets are also
Listed Grade I. Further sections of the town defences to the north east
and south east and the Dominican Friary which lies to the east, are the
subject of separate schedulings.
Newcastle upon Tyne town defences were constructed from the mid-13th century
to the middle or late 14th century enclosing an area of more than 60ha; the
riverside lengths of curtain wall were added during the 15th century. The
masonry defences were strengthened by a berm and a ditch, except on the south
side where they were bounded by the River Tyne. Gateways were built at the
principal points of entry to the town. Internally a cobbled inter-mural lane
followed the line of the defences. The wall was repaired several times during
the medieval period and was reinforced and repaired several times during the
The curtain wall in this section is constructed of large square sandstone
blocks bonded with mortar and is on average 2m wide; for much of its length
it stands an average of 4.4m to the bottom of the parapet walkway. It contains
the remains of three towers; the most northerly is known as Ever Tower, the
most southerly is known as Heber Tower and the central tower is known as
Morden Tower. The length of curtain wall between Ever and Heber towers stands
to the full height of the parapet which is 1.68m high from the top of the wall
walk. The parapet walls were raised in the early 19th century at the time of
the Napoleonic Wars, and the blocked embrasures of the former parapet are
visible between Ever and Morden towers. The length of curtain wall between
Morden and Heber towers was constructed through the precinct of the adjacent
Dominican Friary and documentary sources indicate that it was completed
between 1282-83. Partial excavation between Morden and Heber towers in 1987
revealed that the wall was constructed across an area of narrow ridge
ploughing indicating that this area of the friar's precinct had been in
cultivation prior to the wall's construction. Documents also refer to the
construction of a small postern which was incorporated into this section of
wall in order to allow access to the part of the friary precinct left outside
of the wall.
This postern, known as `friar's postern' is visible on the external face of
the curtain wall as an opening 1m wide and 2m high; this opening has been
remodelled by the insertion of a flat lintel which replaced its original
arched head. On the internal face of the wall the postern is visible as a
wider arched opening 1.5m wide which was blocked during the 19th century. A
second minor postern situated between Morden Tower and friar's postern is of
unknown purpose and date. Partial excavation against the west face of this
length of wall in the late 1980's revealed that it was founded in a narrow
trench and that the lowest course was composed of angular sandstone blocks
bonded with soil. Above this the curtain wall was slightly inset and the
double chamfer course, visible elsewhere around the circuit, was revealed.
Immediately south of Heber Tower the ground level falls and the lower courses
of the curtain wall in this area are stepped downwards.
The first and most northerly tower, known as Ever Tower, is visible as the
lower courses of a semicircular structure with a rectangular ground floor
chamber; it retains the deep splays of three former cross window loops and
projects forwards 4m from the outer face of the curtain wall. A drawing of the
tower dated about 1789 shows that it had a parapet, several external
projecting stone corbels interpreted as supports for timber hoardings or
galleries and a small projecting latrine on the north side, at its junction
with the curtain wall. During the 18th century the tower was granted to the
Company of Paviours, Colliers and Carriers. The upper courses of the tower
were dismantled in 1910 and a tannery built over the lower storey, which was
itself removed in the 1930s.
Morden Tower lies 90m south west of Ever Tower; its tower, semicircular in
shape, also has a rectangular ground floor chamber retaining its three cross
loops and is covered by a stone vaulted roof. It projects some 4m from the
outer face of the curtain wall. In 1619 an upper storey was added to this
tower in order to accommodate the meetings of the Company of Glaziers,
Plumbers and Pewterers. This addition was constructed in brick but faced in
ashlar blocks. The tower was altered again in 1700 when the company built an
inner face of brickwork. Partial excavation at the junction of the town wall
with the south side of Morden Tower provided evidence that the tower was
constructed before the curtain wall.
The third and most southerly tower, known as Heber Tower, is situated at the
south end of the monument. It is visible as a semicircular, single storey
building with an internal rectangular chamber which retains three cross shaped
loops and the stone vault which carried its roof. It projects about 4m from
the line of the curtain wall. Internally, a stone stair leads to the roof and
the parapet walkway. Externally, the tower has several projecting stone
corbels which served as supports for timber hoardings or galleries. There is a
small projecting latrine on the south side of the tower and at its junction
with the tower there is an additional cross loop. The tower was repaired in
1620 by the Company of Armourers, Curriers and Felt Makers.
There are the remains of two turrets in this section of the town wall; the
first between Ever and Morden towers is visible as a row of nine closely
spaced corbels projecting from the inner face of the wall walk. The second
turret between Morden and Heber towers is the best preserved of the two, and
is visible as a rectangular structure containing a narrow chamber with a
window loop facing west. It retains both doors through which passed the
parapet walkway as well as the external staircase, supported on corbels
projecting from the inner face, which gave access to the roof.
Outside of the curtain wall, there are the remains of the berm and the town
ditch known as the King's Dike. The ditch survives partially as an earthwork
and partially as an infilled and buried feature below the present level of the
ground. In 1987 parts of the town ditch were excavated in the area between
Morden and Heber towers and the location and extent of the ditch was
identified. It was discovered to lie some 9.5m in front of the curtain wall
and has maximum dimensions of 11.3m wide and is 4.5m deep. Although the lower
deposits within the ditch had been recut on several occasions, most notably
during the Civil War, an original narrow U-shaped gully at its bottom was
visible. The digging of the ditch in this area in about 1312, served to cut
off the friars from their friary precinct once more; partial excavation of the
area between the friars postern and the inner lip of the ditch in the 1980's
revealed the existence of a metalled surface interpreted as a roadway running
from the postern towards the ditch. A lens of similar material was also
uncovered on the outer lip of the ditch on the same alignment, and this was
interpreted as the position of a bridge across the ditch mentioned in
documentary sources. The excavations also showed that a series of lean-to
structures had been built against the outer face of the curtain wall
associated with a trackway which ran along the inner lip of the ditch. The
slots to support these structures are visible on the external face of the
curtain wall. These features were interpreted as being 17th century or earlier
in date and of uncertain nature.
All wooden doors and wall plaques, the wooden footbridge and stone piles
across the ditch, the steps giving access to the bridge, the low stone
wall around Gallowgate bus station, all fences, hand rails and the
surfaces of all roads and pavements are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features and the structures to which
they are attached are included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Grundy, J, McCombie, G, Ryder, P, Welfare, H, The Buildings of England: Northumberland, (2002), 434-41
Brewis, P, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 4' in The West Walls of Newcastle Upon Tyne, , Vol. Xi, (1934), 1-20
Holmes, S, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 2' in The Walls of Newcastle Upon Tyne, , Vol. XViii, (1896), 1-25
Welford, R, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 2' in The Walls Of Newcastle In 1638, , Vol. Xii, (1887), 230-35
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing